The last thing I was expecting to hear from the lips of Jarrah McCleary, front man of The Dirty Secrets, on a chilly autumn morning was “Hey, I’m just lying in bed, waiting for your call.” I had to double check that he was expecting a call from a writer to discuss plans for their upcoming gig at MUM and the word on their new album – not, ah, somebody else. Turns out he was expecting me and we ended up talking Tropicana, Prince and Greenland. Weird huh?
Nell Greco: So uh, why are you in bed at 9am on a Wednesday morning? Did you have a Tuesday night bender?
Jarrah McCleary: Last night we were just rehearsing, boring stuff (laughs). No, just brushing up for the show at Mum on Friday night.
NG: I love that your MySpace description is ‘Tropical/Indie/Funk’. Is that a bit of a joke?
JMcC: It’s kind of true! (More laughs) We’ve kind of been working on a theme and a style for eighteen months, a cohesive sound and that’s how we’ve kind of categorised what we’re doing. The sounds are like that of a tropical island, which is just bizarre considering it’s winter in the middle of Sydney. Actually ‘Paradiso’ is the word that encompasses all those things.
NG: So are you planning to decorate the stage in the appropriate Tropicana attire?
JMcC: That’d be the ultimate! Maybe even a revolving set. I saw a production at the Sydney Theatre and they had a revolving set. Imagine if we had guys just grab the sides and revolve the set for the next song. You pretty much just need people behind it getting the next scene done – how good would that be?! I think we’ll be dressing according to the Paradiso theme – it should make for a fun and extravagant night.
NG: This is starting to sound like the making of The Dirty Secrets: The Tropical/Indie/Funk Musical…
JMcC: Hell no! (Laughing) I don’t think anyone likes musicals (More laughing).
NG: The band has moved to Sydney from W.A. in the last year so you guys can record and tour more. Have much of the sound changes that you’re going through now been a result of that move?
JMcC: Definitely. It took a lot of time to get out of one particular sound and into another. The whole landscape – Perth’s flat, Sydney’s not, it’s also kind of sub-tropical so the different kind of weather… what I did find was the pace of life was quicker. But as a style would it have affected my writing? I don’t know but I know that we would never have written what we’ve been writing unless we were here, so absolutely.
NG: What do you miss least about W.A.?
JMcC: The summer. I never liked the summer, it was a killer but I’m sure when summer hits here I’ll hate it too. Yeah, I’ve got really pale skin so I don’t like the sun (laughs). Everyone around me is getting upset about winter and I’m like, ‘What do you mean man? This is great, this is good!’ I can actually go out in the sun and look around and stuff – this is really good for me!
NG: Have you considered Iceland?
JMcC: Iceland’s fantastic I’ve heard. Have you heard about Greenland though? Apparently there was a Viking that got exiled to where we now call Greenland and he actually named it because it was so cold he thought ‘You know what I’ll call it to get other people to come here? I’ll call it Greenland and everyone will come over and it’ll be awesome!’ (Laughs)
NG: Reverse psychology used on an entire nation.
JMcC: Yeah exactly! Anyway that’s just a story…
NG: So who have you been listening to lately that’s been inspiring?
JMcC: A lot of old funk bands at the moment and not that it sounds like anything we’ve been doing, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Earth Wind and Fire. I’m surprised by how many of their songs I know. Ahh, Sly and the Family Stone, because apparently they wrote one of the best funk albums so I’m still getting my head around that. Obviously Prince as well – I’ve been listening to Purple Rain.
NG: You’ve been locked up writing and recording your second album for months now – almost eighteen of them. How different has it been recording this album compared to your debut?
JMcC: Well last time we recorded in the traditional way, everyone played together in the same room; we recorded in a studio, got a producer, got an engineer and spent a week or two on the album. For this album though, we’ve been recording things at my place and we lay all the sounds down (there are a lot of sounds as far as the synths are concerned) and I’ve been trying to keep it simple but there’s a lot going on. The only thing we do actually still record in a proper traditional studio would be the drums.
NG: Have you got a working title for the album?
JMcC: Well we’ve just been recording for eighteen months, we don’t know if it’s going to be an album or an EP or what will be a single. I don’t think it matters too much any more but we do know we’re going to have something released this year. I don’t know when though. (Laughs)
NG: That’s a good thing right – you’ve probably got someone else worrying about it so you can just worry about the music?
JMcC: (laughs) Are you worried about me? I have worried in the past but I don’t do that any more. It affects your creative process if you involve yourself in those things and I think as an artist, he or she needs to just be that [creative].
NG: Any plans for a national tour?
JMcC: Well, we haven’t got anything out yet so we’re not going to be touring yet. This gig at Mum is just a one off; it’s basically just us getting the chance to play the new material. We’re playing all new material besides the one track from the last album. We’re really excited and it’s good because we can keep the theme [that we’ve been trying to maintain throughout the recordings] running throughout the set and that’s really good for us because it puts us in a certain mood. Yeah, it’s going to make us happy.
NG: You’ve spent plenty of time overseas touring as well as playing with super-bands like Muse in your own backyard. What’s your favourite tour story to date?
JMcC: (laughing) You want a dirty one, you some juicy story! Well I’m not going to give you any but there was some, yes. I know it gets out if I say something and I know who’s going to read it and it always gets back to me for some reason – it’s happened to me before and I’ve learnt my lesson. (More laughing)
The Dirty Secrets are exposing their new material for one night only, this Friday 21st May for MUM at World Bar. Click here for details.